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Based on our test results we conclude that the Phanteks PH-TC90LS has to be paired with a relatively low power chip to operate properly as a quiet CPU cooler. It cooled our slightly overclocked/overvolted Core i5-2400 well enough in an open testing environment but at low fan speeds the processor heated up to very uncomfortable levels. Inside a case with limited airflow, you can expect much worse, so it's best used with a dual core part with a TDP of 65W or lower if the volume produced needs to be at a reasonable level.
Phanteks' larger premium coolers are essentially clones of Noctua products
but they took a more original approach with the PH-TC90LS. Their mini cooler
shares the same 95 x 95 mm footprint of the Noctua
NH-L9i, emphasizing compatibility above all else. However, it's a taller
heatsink (45 mm vs. 37 mm) and uses a simpler design that can't match the Noctua's
effectiveness. The NH-L9i beat the TC90LS by between 7~10°C and is equipped
with a much better sounding fan as well. Part of the problem might be the slightly
concave profile of the base, which can be flattened by lapping for improved
performance, but you're still saddled with a less-than pristine sounding fan.
It seems like a reasonable compromise when you consider the US$20 price
difference between the two products, but we're not convinced it's more than
a marginal improvement over an OEM Intel cooler. Pull off the stock fan from
that and replace it with a better sounding conventional fan using zip ties,
and the overall performance might be better. The best alternative would be the
Kozuti which offers NH-L9i performance at a TC90LS price, but its wider
profile may cause interference on some boards.
Our thanks to Phanteks for the PH-TC90LS CPU cooler sample.
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SPCR Articles of Related Interest:
Thermalright TRUE Spirit 120M CPU Heatsink
Noctua NH-L9i Low Profile CPU Cooler
Zalman CNPS9900DF Dual Fan Flower Heatsink
Prolimatech MK-26 Multi-VGA Cooler
SilverStone Heligon HE02: Monster Fanless CPU Cooler
Prolimatech Panther CPU Cooler
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this article in the SPCR forums.
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